Today, I went on my charity walk. I was ready to go, 3 Km (2 miles) I intended to approximately powerwalk, insofar as I can given that I am still recovering flexibility after my hip chop op.
The organisers suggested I go with Beryl, a little old lady who also wanted to do the 3 Km course. I was about to decline, because no way could she walk fast enough, then I thought, “It’s a mitzvah. So what if I go slower than I intended?”
In case you don’t know, a mitzvah is a Jewish custom of doing secret good deeds. It is also one of the tools of positive psychology. Do lots of mitzvahs, and not only do you become a better person, but the habit also lifts your long term mood.
OK, so I didn’t powerwalk, but matched her pace. This was FAR faster than my normal brisk walking pace, and I soon felt comfortably warm in the chilly autumn morning air. We were striding along at a great rate while getting to know each other.
When we got back, we chatted with a few people — then both decided to do another 3 Km lap together.
Here is the inspiring part: her story.
She is 83, going on 84. 29 years ago, she was involved in a head-on smash. She suffered multiple injuries, including severe brain damage. When she woke in hospital, she couldn’t speak or move. She suffered a stroke, and for a long time had epilepsy as a result of her brain injuries.
Yet here she was, walking fast enough to outspeed most people 40 years her junior, never mind short legs.
She has regrown her intelligence, no longer has epilepsy, and the only leftover of her stroke is difficulty moving 3 fingers of her left hand. She is cheerful, good company, involved in lots of volunteer activities.
How did she achieve this?
As soon as she regained consciousness, she was determined to recover. On the way home from rehab, she saw some calves being taken to market. She talked to the driver, and organised to buy the calves (she lives on a farm). This meant that she had an obligation to feed those animals twice a day, and to look after them in other ways. She told me, this external duty meant there was no question: however she felt, she needed to care for her animals.
She said, there is a middle-aged woman who lives near her who had also suffered a car smash. When she introduces herself to anyone, she starts with, “I have brain damage…” She has multiple handicaps, far less serious than Beryl’s original state, but permanent.
This difference is the secret. We know that the brain grows back to regain lost function — if the will and determination is there.
Copy Beryl’s attitude, and you’ll never be depressed, regardless of your circumstances.